Air Force defends legacy of Declaration of Independence

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sam Fogleman
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Every July 4 is an opportunity for Americans to reflect on the birth of their nation. When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence 237 years ago, a new democratic era was ushered into the Western world that recaptured the greatest aspirations of the Athenians from millennia earlier. Though it took more than a century for the country to make good on many of Jefferson's promises, and while it continues to work on others still, the United States exists as a global standard-bearer for human development, economic justice, accessible education and civil rights.

The Air Force is a modern defender of the ideals that drove the Founding Fathers to break away from the oppressive rule of the Kingdom of Great Britain. When global combat took to the skies, America needed an unparalleled aerial fighting force to defend that new theater of warfare. Made independent in 1947, at the dawn of the Cold War, the Air Force was tasked with protecting the United States and its allies from the threat of the Soviet Union, America's ally of World War II turned sudden adversary.

The Air Force was born at a time when the United States had the capability to extend its power and potential military authority over practically the entire planet, much of it a smoldering ruin after World War II, but the country instead chose the path of leading by example, using its prosperity and influence to pull others along in the wake of its forward momentum, rather than bending the will of the world at the barrel of a gun the way previous superpowers had done. Indeed, America took not to revenge against its World War II opponents of Germany and Japan following the conflict, but rather helped to fashion them into market-based representative democracies similar to its own!

Just as Jefferson and his contemporaries could scarcely have imagined the technological achievements that enabled the creation of something like the modern Air Force, hardly could they have imagined the necessity of an American military so engaged in the world, despite George Washington's hesitancy toward foreign involvement expressed during his farewell address from the presidency. Still, we in the Air Force have assumed the mantle passed down from the great men and women who came before, looking disaster in the face during the Revolution and pressing forward to victory.

"As we celebrate our nation's birthday and the legacy of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence, reflect also on how our great Air Force protects the freedoms our founding leaders established for us," said Col. Marc Vanwert, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Vice Commander. "As the early American pioneers developed our new country and the principles it stands on, so too our Air Force leaders developed a separate service to always protect our cherished freedoms and way of life. Fly, fight, and win is what we do as part of our Joint team to ensure our flag waves above us forever."

These are perilous times for the United States and its Air Force. New opponents and challenges seem to emerge on an all-too-regular basis. During this Fourth of July weekend, think of the adversity that our forefathers faced when they signed the Declaration of Independence. The Revolution was far from over at that point. The war would rage for another seven years before the British yielded. They prevailed as will we.

"Our everyday decision making, from Commander in Chief to Airmen, throughout the Air Force is constantly based on what came before," said James O'Connell, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Historian. "We are all part of a lasting legacy of excellence because of those who came before - those supposedly ordinary men and women - doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times. In short, to quote Shakespeare, 'What is past is prologue.'"

The Air Force is made mighty not by the strength of its armaments or the sophistication of its technology, but by the conviction and righteousness of the ideals that it defends. From the sky and space, the Air Force protects the aims of Jefferson's formidable document that gave birth to our country:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."